At some point during the this year-14 Premier League season, football history will be made when technology is used to settle a contentious goal-line decision for the first time.
The system has already been deployed at last year’s Fifa Club World Cup in Japan and this year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil, but both tournaments passed off without any controversial goal-mouth incidents.
That is almost certain to change when the first of this season’s 380 Premier League games kick off on Saturday, after the English top flight became the first national championship to sanction the use of the technology.
Its arrival will mark the biggest change in the English game since the back-pass rule was introduced in 1992, preventing goalkeepers from picking up passes from team-mates and slowing the game down.
British-based firm Hawk-Eye was chosen over German company GoalControl to supply the ground-breaking technology at a meeting of Premier League club chairmen in April.
During the close season, ball-tracking cameras have been installed at all 20 Premier League grounds, from Old Trafford, home of reigning champions Manchester United, to newly-promoted Hull City’s KC Stadium.
Hawk-Eye’s system uses 14 elevated cameras (seven per goal) to track the movement of the ball around the pitch, with computer software scrutinising data from the cameras to detect whether or not the ball has crossed one of the two goal-lines.
When a goal is scored, a signal will be sent to the match officials’ wristwatches within a second.
Hawk-Eye, which provides similar technology for use in cricket and tennis, says the system is “millimetre accurate”. Former head of Premier League referees Keith Hackett calls it a “brilliant system”.
Spectators will be unaware if a goal has been awarded until the referee signals, but Hawk-Eye replays will be displayed on in-stadium video screens, where available, and shown to fans watching on television.
The Premier League has long been an advocate of the technology, having conducted initial tests with Hawk-Eye as long ago as 2006.
However, it was not until world governing body Fifa reconsidered its opposition to the concept in July last year, after nine months of testing, that the path was cleared for it to be introduced.
England manager Roy Hodgson says the system will eliminate the “gross injustices” that occur when officials fail to notice that the ball has crossed the goal-line during matches.
One memorable example occurred at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when England midfielder Frank Lampard was denied a goal in his side’s last-16 loss to Germany despite his shot clearly bouncing behind the line after hitting the crossbar.
In the Premier League, at least, such incidents should now be a thing of the past.